Concerns were reverberating around the internet last week that by aiding in the spread of fake news stories, many of them spreading falsehoods that were in Donald Trump's favor, Facebook may have had a major hand helping Trump get elected. CEO Mark Zuckerberg continues to resist this idea, having said Thursday that this was a "crazy idea" and that "Voters make decisions based on their lived experience.” Zuckerberg posted several paragraphs publicly Saturday night, saying, "Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes... this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election." At least ten employees contacted by the New York Times, however, remain dissatisfied with Zuckerberg's response, and skeptical about the breadth of the influence the social network may have had.
Outside critics, as well as those within the company, point to fake news stories like one that claimed Pope Francis endorsed Trump which was shared on Facebook more than a million times and likely seen by tens of millions of people who supported Trump. Employees speak of the "filter bubble" that occurs when people only tend to interact with other users who are likeminded, allowing fake stories to spread and be fully believed.
Executives and others in the company have apparently been having internal discussions all week about their fears that they caused President-Elect Donald Trump, and these fears were meant to be assuaged in an all-hands meeting in which Zuckerberg said most of the same things he said in his Saturday posting.
And this is all highly ironic given the dustup that occurred earlier this year, in which conservatives attacked Facebook for reportedly suppressing and/or censoring conservative news sources in the site's highly influential Trending Topics feed. This led to a decision in August by Zuckerberg to remove human curators from the feed entirely, and let it be run by an algorithm a decision that resulted immediately in fake news stories popping up in the feed.
And some fake news stories arrive in the form of paid ads that use hoax headlines as clickbait. Just take a look at two that appeared right beside Zuckerberg's own post Saturday night, one claiming that football star Tom Brady was dead.
Zuckerberg says "I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”
Yeah, so, maybe some human arbiters need to stop allowing shit like those hoax ads to be on a site that is now the place where half of all American adults get their news.